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Managing in health care
Michael Taylor
update on Monday, July 15, 2013
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Established in 2011, Tung Wah College is the successor to a two-year community college set up jointly by the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) and the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals (TWGH) some 10 years ago. It accepts secondary school-leavers planning to pursue a career in health services and related disciplines.

Now totally independent of the CUHK, Tung Wah College is a self-financing tertiary institution registered under the Post-Secondary Colleges Ordinance.

What sets it apart from its predecessor is that it offers both sub-degree and degree-level programmes. There is also a two-year higher diploma in nursing, which trains students to become enrolled nurses. Students typically need five years’ training to become registered nurses.

“All campuses and facilities will be taken over by Tung Wah College,” says its president, Professor Thomas Wong Kwok-shing. “It is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the [TWGH], the largest charitable organisation in Hong Kong.”

The community college, which will be phased out in August, has been offering sub-degree programmes in business, health studies, and social science. In addition to associate programmes such as these, Tung Wah College is also offering bachelor’s degrees (Hons) in business administration, health science, medical science, social science, and science in occupational therapy, as well as a higher diploma in nursing. New programmes will be added later.

So why would an institution focusing on health care offer degrees in business and business administration?

“There are no other programmes in Hong Kong training students to work in the health-care industry as frontline managers,” Wong says. “These programmes train them to do that.”

As well as the two college campuses in Ho Man Tin and Mong Kok, TWGH has several primary and secondary schools.

“With 10 years of experience, it was thought that we would be able to set up an institution independent of Chinese University,” Wong says. “We will be able to produce graduates that can work for the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals in areas such as welfare, family services, health services and education.”

But the institution is also hoping to serve the needs of the greater health-care community. “We can’t just build a university to serve our own needs,” Wong says. “Graduates will be able to find jobs at other hospitals and in both for-profit and non-profit organisations.”

The associate programmes, which cater to roughly 15 per cent of enrollees, are designed to enable students to either find jobs immediately after graduation or continue their studies to pursue a bachelor’s degree. Students receiving an associate degree in health studies, for example, can find jobs in hospitals or health-care centres, or in the commercial sector.

“It is perfect for students who missed out on a bachelor’s programme due to a lack of places,” Wong says. “They can continue into the third year by maintaining a 2.5 Grade Point Average.”

One attractive option is for students to work for a few years after obtaining their associate qualification to get practical work experience, before returning to class to resume their studies in Year Three.

“If they have had practical work experience, it will be easier to master the concepts that are taught in class in the final two years,” Wong says. “It will be easier to study if they have had real-life experiences. They will understand things better.”

All students, except those studying for an associate degree and those enrolling in the third year, must take part in a co-operative education scheme, working eight to 12 months in a company or organisation. During this period, they will receive full pay and will be under the supervision of their employer, as well as an academic adviser.

In terms of career prospects, the sky seems to be the limit. “We have 500 nursing students graduating, and they will all be absorbed immediately,” Wong says. “Every day, jobs are advertised, mostly related to health. We will never be able to supply enough graduates for the health-care industry. There is a shortage of health care professionals in Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta.”

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